For my birthday I was given a book entitled THE FIVE INVITATIONS:Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully. The author is Frank Ostaseski. He is a Buddhist teacher, co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project. There are a lot of good insights in his book.
I want to share a few quotes from the book and then comment:
"Like the confluence of great rivers, our lives are a series of different moments, joining together to give the impression of one continuous flow. ... The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. It is like the sages say:'We can't step into the same river twice.'" (p. 20)
"Each moment is born and dies. And in a very real way, we are born and die with it." (p. 21)
"The Persian poet Ghalib wrote, 'For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river.'" (p.31)
In a way, life is a series of episodes. We live from one event to another. Talking with friends, watching a movie, eating a cookie, petting a dog. Some episodes or events are transforming.
When my Dad was around the same age I am now, we were riding in a car and he was telling me about his Dad. He heard his Dad saying to a friend, and referring to my Dad, "I don't know what I would do without him." As Dad told me this, he began to cry. Even in his elder years, it was important for Dad to remember how his father affirmed him. I have tried, as often as I have had a chance to do so, to affirm those of my family.
The birth of our first child was a transforming event. All of a sudden, I was responsible, for the rest of my life, for the life of another. I could no longer live alone. My wife and I could no longer be independent.
Each event in our lives has a wholeness to it. When I was Dean of a seminary, I spent a lot of time with individual students. I learned how important it was that when the student and I were in my office, talking, looking at each other, listening for our real stories, that for that moment it was all of life. It was everything in one place, at one time, with each other. This is what my dear friend Warren Molton calls a "lived moment."
We can live fully in the present. If we don't keep re-living our past. How do I look at myself now? Am I a teacher? I was a teacher, but I am not teaching anywhere now. That was then. Am I a pastor? I have been, but not now. That was then, this is now. What am I now? I am who I have always been, yet fully new in the present. I am not a label. I am not a profession. I am in this time.
It was a great life. A lot happened. But I am not living that life now. And I will never live it again.
We can live fully in the present. If we quit trying to live for the future. One of the insights that can come from being in the elder years is that I cannot determine my future. I will probably die within a few years, but I have no idea when, and I have no power over that event. I wish there would be a future when I have more energy, and maybe there will be, but I don't know that. All I can really do is be fully involved in what is happening now. (Remember Flip Wilson as Reverend Leroy, pastor of the"Church of What's Happening Now")
In Thornton Wilder's play OUR TOWN, the heroine asks the stage manager "Does anyone ever live life every, every moment?" He replies that the saints do and, maybe, poets. Which are you?